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#123: ‘Sentient’ claim for Google AI; spacecraft spots starquakes; the rise of the mammals; hot brains

Season 1, Ep. 123

How will we know when we’ve made a truly sentient artificial intelligence? Well, one Google engineer believes we’re already there. The team discusses the story of Google’s very clever AI called LaMDA, and ask another chatbot, GPT3, what it would think if LaMDA was destroyed.


Did you know stars have ‘earthquakes’ too? These starquakes have been spotted by the Gaia space observatory, which aims to build a 3D map of all the stars in our galaxy. It’s been collecting a phenomenal amount of data, and the team explores its findings.


Net Zero pledges are becoming more popular - which is great - but a lot of them aren’t being acted on. According to a new consortium Net Zero Tracker, a worrying number of these pledges aren’t credible. The team finds out how the group aims to hold companies to account.


Our brains are hotter than we realised - 2.5 degrees celsius hotter in fact. The team asks why we’re only just finding this out in 2022, and how the discovery may improve care for people undergoing brain surgery.


Steve Brusatte is best known as a dinosaur palaeontologist, but he has turned his attention now to our own class, the mammals. Rowan chats with him, and amongst other things finds out how enslaved Africans in South Carolina were instrumental in the development of palaeontology. 


On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Clare Wilson,Matt Sparkes and James Dinneen. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.


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More Episodes

7/28/2022

#129 BlueDot special: Mysteries of the universe; stories of hope and joy; growing tiny human brains; solving global problems

Season 1, Ep. 129
Welcome to a special edition of the show recorded live at the bluedot music festival. On the panel are New Scientist journalists Rowan Hooper and Abby Beall, along with Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel and geoscientist and broadcaster Chris Jackson.With the awesome Lovell radio telescope dominating the sky above the festival, this episode begins with astronomy news, and in particular stories from the James Webb Space Telescope - including its mission to look at the atmosphere of rocky planets in the search for extraterrestrial life. There’s also a nod to the late great James Lovelock, who has died at the age of 103.The panel brings their stories of joy and hope. Abby brings news of the saving of a research centre for intelligent birds. Chris marvels at an impressive global geological event which highlights the power of collaboration. Hannah dreams up a story about “nanoskin” which happens to be very similar to a real story we reported. And Rowan comes with the news that chimps have been found to treat each other using medicinal insects.The panel discusses the ethics and possibilities of brain organoid research. These are tiny human brains grown in a lab, which have recently been shown to give off brain waves equivalent to those seen in fetuses.The whole team is gifted with an imaginary $100 million, and asked how they’d use it to save the world. Rowan wants to refreeze the Arctic.Then there’s a vibrant Q&A session with the audience. And for the boy who asked about brain organoids playing Pong, here’s the story.InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistHow We’re Wired from The Bertarelli FoundationNew Scientist Live event: newscientist.com/nslbd
7/21/2022

#128 Extreme heatwaves; China’s space station launch; covid’s effects in pregnancy; a black hole symphony

Season 1, Ep. 128
Following scolding 40 degree record temperatures, it’s clear the UK is not set up to deal with such heat. But as extreme weather events become more common, how can we prepare for a hotter future? The team finds out, and looks to the US and Europe where hot temperatures are also wreaking havoc.China’s space plans are rocketing forward, as the country prepares to launch the second part of its space station into orbit on 24 July. With the third and final module due to launch in October, the team finds out what China is planning to do aboard the new station.What does a black hole sound like? Although we can’t answer that literally, a process called data sonification offers up a solution - by converting astronomical data into sounds and music. The team shares two beautiful pieces composed for an immersive new production called ‘Black Hole Symphony’.Covid-19 has been found to increase the risk of premature birth if caught during the final trimester of pregnancy. The team explores the findings and what they mean for pregnant people.Plant communities could be fundamentally changed by declining pollinator populations, suggests a surprising experiment. The team examines the risk this poses to biodiversity.On the pod are Penny Sarchet, Emily Bates, Michael Le Page, Jason Murugesu, and Alex Wilkins. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistHow We’re Wired from The Bertarelli Foundation50% discounted subscription: newscientist.com/pod50Blue Dot festival: https://www.discoverthebluedot.com/Escape Pod episode on sonification.
7/14/2022

#127: Pig hearts transplanted into dead people; James Webb Space Telescope gives best-ever view of the universe; boosting wheat genetics to feed the world

Season 1, Ep. 127
After the first pig-human transplant patient died just 2 months after receiving his new heart, researchers are now testing modified pig hearts by transplanting them into recently deceased people on life support. The team discusses a new experiment which has shown very promising results.NASA has revealed stunning images of deep-space captured by the James Webb Space Telescope - and there’s so much more to come. The team explains how the telescope is like a time machine, helping us to peer back into the early history of the universe.Much of the information our eyes take in is discarded by the brain. The team discusses a new technique called ‘ghost imaging’ which is using AI to reconstruct those lost images by interacting directly with our brain.Wheat hasn’t yet reached its genetic potential. The team finds out how genetically tweaking this vital crop could improve yields globally, and help it to withstand the impacts of climate change.Covid-19 is impacting fertility through its impacts on sperm - yet another thing we’re finding out about the disease. The team finds out what’s going on, and how long-lasting these effects are.On the pod are Rowan Hooper, Penny Sarchet, Jacob Aron, Karmela Padavic-Callaghan, Grace Wade and Carissa Wong. To read about these stories and much more, subscribe at newscientist.com/podcasts.Events and discount codes:InsideTracker: insidetracker.com/NewScientistHow We’re Wired from The Bertarelli FoundationOnline event: newscientist.com/beinghuman20% Discount: newscientist.com/pod20